Thursday, November 11, 2010

Haitian cholera causing diarrhea as "clear as water"

The latest statistics from OXFAM say that there are now 641 cholera deaths in Haiti. Hospitals have treated 9971 cases total since the outbreak began. The cholera is beginning to be found in the capital of Port-au-Prince where there are still a million homeless people.

From the UK's Independent, writer Guy Adams tells us about the latest activity in Haiti.

Health officials confirmed their worst fears of the disease spreading to the capital, when tests revealed that it had infected a three-year-old boy from the Cité Soleil neighbourhood who hadn't left the city since cholera was first recorded in Haiti just over a fortnight ago.

Previously, the handful of cases in Port-au-Prince came from citizens who had recently arrived there from the mostly rural central region, where the current outbreak is thought to have started at the end of October. Nationwide, the official death toll has now passed 500, and reports coming in from small towns around the country suggest that many hospitals are struggling to cope with the influx of victims of the water-borne disease, which causes severe diarrhoea and can kill through dehydration in a matter of hours.

In Raboteau, a seaside slum in the north of the country, rubbish trucks were patrolling the streets clearing up unclaimed bodies. Doctors had run out of rehydration drips, so were referring patients to the hospital in Gonaives, where a reporter from the Los Angeles Times spoke of scores of patients lying outside on stretchers, expelling diarrhoea "clear as water" into buckets.

At the La Piste camp in Port-au-Prince, Amanda George, an aid worker from the British Red Cross, said her medical team had already treated roughly 40 people who were suspected of having cholera. "A couple of days ago, we saw the first ones arrive in our observation centre," she said. "We haven't heard back from the lab, but we just know it's cholera. We've got people losing fluids everywhere. Some of the patients, particularly children, look very ill. Their eyes have rolled back and they have white pupils from dehydration."

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